Fletcher Cox vs. Marcell Dareus
The Eagles’ star defensive lineman was great; the Bills’ star defensive tackle wasn’t. Cox, the 12th pick in the 2012 draft, doesn’t rack up a ton of statistics as a 3-4 defensive end. But he’s having a great season. He was a wrecking crew last week against New England, with four hits and 14 pressures on Tom Brady. Against the Bills he had eight tackles and a sack. He also made key plays that foiled two Bills fourth-quarter drives. Cox beat Richie Incognito to tackle LeSean McCoy for an 8-yard loss on the third-last Bills drive. He drew a holding penalty on Incognito on the second-last Bills possession. Dareus, meanwhile, finished with three tackles and no hurries on the quarterback. Cox has 6.5 sacks on the season. Dareus had 10 sacks last year and 7.5 the year before. He has just two sacks this season.
Chip Kelly vs. conventional wisdom
Time of possession generally is overrated. The Eagles have the most up-tempo offense in the NFL under Kelly. They run plays every 22:48 seconds, which puts pressure on the defense. They’re last in time of possession, holding it only 26:21 a game. But the Eagles have run the third-most plays in the NFL, 68 a game. The Eagles lost the time of possession battle to the Bills by 35:02 to 24:58. But they ran 73 plays to Buffalo’s 69. Their offense is not getting shorted. It’s creating opportunities for itself. Maybe the up-tempo helped induce the Bills’ defense into four offsides penalties. Kelly’s philosophy is sound: Negate defensive athleticism with tempo and scheme. On defense, Kelly’s philosophy is to try to win with athletes, not by manufacturing defense with scheme. The key for any up-tempo offense’s production is to average at least 24 points a game. The Eagles fall a bit short, at 23.2.
Sammy Watkins vs. Eagles CBs
The Bills targeted their star receiver 12 times. He caught five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Neither Eagles cornerback, veteran Bryan Maxwell and rookie second-round pick Eric Rowe, was quite good enough to blanket Watkins, so the Eagles gave both plenty of help over the top. Despite deep help from safety Ed Reynolds, Maxwell was beaten deep on Watkins’ 47-yard TD pass. Watkins was too fast for Maxwell, and the throw from Tyrod Taylor was too accurate for Reynolds. Maxwell had good coverage on a deep incompletion for Watkins in the fourth quarter. Later in the fourth, Watkins and Taylor were not on the same page on a third-down incompletion. Taylor was expecting Watkins to come back for the ball on the sideline throw. Yes, the Bills targeted Watkins a good amount. But you’d still like to see them get the ball in his hands more.